What did Joseph Smith mean when he said the people where depending on the Prophet, hence darkened in their minds

In teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith we read:

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 237)

Here Joseph Smith teaches of the early saints “that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds”.
Wait… what?!?

How could depending on the prophet cause members to be “darkened in their minds”?
The answer is given in the rest of this quotation by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith said each should stand for themselves and depend on no man. He then said that they were violating this by depending on him, which caused their minds to be darkened. It is important to note the reason: It is because they were depending and him and thereby neglecting the duties devolving on themselves.
So fast forward to today. Now days the faithful members of our church tend to know what the brethren have said, but not to believe that they can teach or believe anything they can’t back up by a quotation from one general authority or another. Instead of growing into the principle of revelation, we are growing into the principle of note card cataloging.

One principle is dead, and causes members to be “darkened in their minds”. The other is alive. 

The dead principle is that one that closes his eyes and ears when the Holy Ghost teaches something unless it can be proven that someone else said it too. This isn’t learning by the Holy Ghost. It isn’t faith. It isn’t learning to taste the principles of eternal life. It is fundamental distrust of the Holy Ghost. If I tell someone I will only believe what he says if I find out someone I trust well also said it first, then I do not trust that person. And because I don’t trust him, he can’t teach me.

If we refuse to learn by the Holy Ghost, and instead turn gospel learning in to an extended quotation chase, how much further from learning by the Holy Ghost could we be? Yes, that would cause one’s mind to be darkened. After all, one has turned off the lights.

Sure, there are great inspired quotes and scriptures. The scriptures are the fountainhead of truth. But where did they come from? From someone speaking or writing by the Holy Ghost. When angels deliver a message how do they speak truth so perfectly? In 2 Nephi 32 it says angels speak by the Holy Ghost.

We are supposed to learn by the Holy Ghost. But this trend, that pretends it is an act of faithfulness because it only believes what can be verified by a direct quotation centers around refusing to listen to the Holy Ghost. It replaces the spirit with the methods suited to academia.

If we are going to insist that instead of teaching by the spirit, and learning by the spirit, we are going to simply catalog a large number of quotations because we feel it is safer, then yes, our minds will be darkened because we are depending on the Prophet precisely as Joseph Smith warned the saints in his day.

The true and living principle is that we are given the gift of Holy Ghost precisely because the Holy Ghost is a revelator. Joseph Smith taught:

“No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator.”

Sure, we absolutely recognize the prophet as a prophet seer and a revelator and the only man authorized to lead the church. Yes, we absolutely follow his counsel. And, very importantly, we consider the prophet has the right to say “I had a revelation that….” to the church, where regular members of the church are welcome to teach as they will by the Holy Ghost, but are not welcome to go around teaching one thing or another as being a revelation they received, except to those over whom they are stewards.
But there is enormous difference between hearing the prophet’s words as a checklist of statements, and hearing his words as teaching inspired truths that we are expected to come to understand by the Holy Ghost so that we could have said the same thing he did, independently. One is a dead principle of rote quotations. The other is a living principle of learning by the Holy Ghost until we understand the full principle.

One route teaches us to be an echo of the prophet. It doesn’t take much study, ponder, or prayer to be an echo. Frankly, one doesn’t even need the gift of the Holy Ghost to be an echo. If that was really the intention, the Lord could just give the prophet the gift of the Holy Ghost and leave us out of it. Being an echo doesn’t require revelation.

But becoming an independent witness requires the gift of the Holy Ghost because it requires revelation. That is the route to becoming a living witness of the Christ and of the words of his prophet. This requires the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is the principle of revelation. This is following the prophet to where he actually intends for us to follow: to a living understanding of the truths he speaks, rather than to a rote recital of them, blind to the spirit by which he himself taught them in the first place.

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John Robertson

I am nothing more than a regular member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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